2 Kings 2:6-8
6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, please, for the LORD has sent me on to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” So the two of them went on.
7 And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went and stood facing them at a distance, while the two of them stood by the Jordan.
8 Now Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water; and it was divided this way and that, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground.
20 And those twelve stones which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal.
21 Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying: “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’
22 “then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’;
23 “for the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over,
24 “that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”
The Jordan River has been a symbol for thousands of years. Ever since Joshua and the Israelites crossed over the Jordan around 1200 BC, the Jordan has been memorialized as the crossing point between our past life and life in the Promised Land. Because of sin and disobedience, the Israelites had seen a whole generation die during their wanderings in the desert, and so the younger generation crossing the Jordan had not seen the crossing of the Red Sea. For the previous generation, the Red Sea was the crossing point between slavery and freedom, and so for the new generation the Jordan became the crossing point between the desert of their sin and the prosperity of God’s promises.
For Christians, the Jordan has long represented that same idea, being a symbol of the transformation we undergo in Christ. Where before we once wandered aimlessly as slaves to sin, when we are baptized by the Holy Spirit we cross over into a better life of purpose and promise. And the ultimate expression of “crossing the Jordan” is, of course, that time when we cross from this life into the next, from mortal toil to eternal glory.
The Jordan is thus a symbol of God’s power to save, a marker for the hope we have of eternal life. Elijah knew that it was time for him to cross over the Jordan one final time, to leave the Promised Land of the Israelites and enter into a promised life with God. Elijah showed the power of the promise to Elisha and fifty other men, and so Elijah and his student Elisha crossed over on dry ground, with no barrier between them and the promise that awaited.
In our journey of faith, there will come a time when it seems like there is a barrier between us and God’s will for our lives. Our road seems to lead right into a wide river or a raging sea. The only thing that can get us across such a place is the power of God enacted through our faith. On this side of the river, it seems like we have done all we can do, and yet we know there is no turning back to Jericho or Bethel. That is when we will see the power of God to save us, when we will be shown that crossing over is not a matter of our power or will but a matter of GOD’s power and will. And we will step out in faith on that dry ground, not marveling for a second at the power that holds the waters back, but sure and focused on our destiny in Christ.
When the Israelites first crossed the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark had to get their feet wet on the edges of the flood in order to enact God’s power. Once they touched their toes to the water, the waters piled up to the north, and the river was dry to the south, enabling the million-plus Israelites to cross over on dry ground. But the priests had to stay there in the river bed to keep the waters back, and once they reached the far shore, the waters flooded once again. But Elijah simply struck the waters and walked through, sure in his faith and sure in the power of God to save him. That is the confidence we must have, that sureness of the hope of the glory of God.
As we go forth today, as we face the barriers before us on our journey of faith, let us strike the waters with confidence, knowing that God will prepare a way for us. We who believe on Christ have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit for the remission of our sins, and so we are ready for that Jordan, ready to enter into the promises of God. Let us therefore step out onto the dry ground and know that God is mighty to save us from sin and death, that His will for us is a journey to salvation and glory in His Son Christ Jesus.
Father God, blessed be Your name in all the earth, and blessed be the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God. You are mighty, Lord God, and Your power to save will be shown to all through my life. Show them Your power through salvation, and lead me, O Lord, across the dry river bed into Your glory. Let me not turn back but forge onward in Your name, for only Your name has the power to save. Amen.